Saturday, 5 May 2012

Chicken Enchiladas

I live in what is supposed to be the Vegetable Growing Capital of Canada. And I believe it too because between now and September, every morning I walk out my door I will be greeted with the beautiful bouquet of whatever crop is ready to harvest. It still gives me a thrill every time I open a window and my house is instantly fragranced with the aroma of fresh celery! Although living in such splendor is not without its hazards either. One time I was coming up the highway into town behind a truck loaded with onions, and with the skins blowing off the back of the load, I was faced with zero visibility. Worse than a blizzard or a duststorm by far. And if a carrot truck loses its load on the road, it can be more slippery than black ice! Still, in all, the benefits far outweigh the hazzards, and I am never without inspiration when it comes to preparing vegetables.
But this blog isn't about vegetables. It was just my preamble to start everybody thinking about our crops and to remember that those vegetables don't just jump out of the field and on to our store shelves themselves. Today, as I was driving through town, I saw a small crowd gathered in a circle around the cenotaph at the city hall. There were veterans in their dress uniforms and members of The Lion's Club in their vests and badges and a small group of others. At first I thought it was a prayer group. But the vibe was more festive than that. And this town loves a little celebration. We'd go to the opening of an envelope if it gave us a chance to gather in commeraderie. Then I spotted the little flags that the people were holding and waving. Ah of course! Today is Cinco de Mayo! At first I was excited, but upon closer scrutiny, I saw the flags were faded and shabby and the crowd was far too small to mark such a historic day. It was a bit sad and I teared up because this town I live in would be nothing if it weren't for our migrant workers and the sacrifice their families make back home so we can have beautiful, fresh vegetables all throughout Canada, and indeed the world. So God Bless our migrant workers and their families, and God Bless Mexico!
Today's recipe is a tribute to them! Although I'm sure they would think my version of their national cuisine is no closer to authentic than the Chinese Food we order on the phone. Or the fresh seafood that my Portuguese partner scoffs at as being fresh since we live 2,000 miles away from the nearest ocean! In any case, this one is a crowd pleaser and I've seen a whole tray of them disappear in less than a minute at Superbowl parties.
You'll need:
3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
chili powder (lots!)
salt & pepper
12 tortillas or more if you want to make extra
2 cups of grated cheese. Your choice. I like Monterrey Jack
1 can of chopped green chilies
2 cans of tomato sauce
1 can of black beans
1 tablespoon of chopped chipotles (canned)
Sour cream, salsa and guacamole to garnish.
Season the chicken breasts with salt, pepper, cumin, coriander and chili powder and bake them on a cookie sheet at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes.
While they're baking, grate your cheese. You can cheat with this step and buy the tex mex already shredded cheese in the bag if you just got paid and have lots of extra money. Open up all your other cans of ingredients. Pour both cans of your tomato sauce into a large bowl and add 2 generous tablespoons of chili powder and mix it all up.
When the chicken is finished baking, let it sit for a few minutes to relax and then chop it into bite size chunks. Start a new large bowl and put all the chicken in it. Set your oven to 325. Add just a bit more than half of your cheese, the can of green chilies, 1 or 2 tablespoons of chopped chipotle (this is damn spicy so know your boundaries here). The black beans are optional. You could use refried beans or pinto bean or skip the beans altogether. I like the texture of the black beans. Add only about 1/2 the can (rinse them first). Add about 1/2 cup of your seasoned tomato sauce to moisten and mix all this up well.
Pour a ladle full of your tomato sauce to the bottom of a large casserole dish making sure the whole bottom is covered. This prevents your tortillas from sticking to the bottom the pan. Pretty genious actually.
Now take each tortilla shell and place about 2 tablespoons of the chicken mixture onto it and roll it up like a burrito. Be sure your ends are tucked in. You want it to be a parcel with no escape holes. Use your math skills and eyeball to make sure you have enough mixture to go into each tortilla. You want to not have any leftover tortillas or mixture once the pan is full or else you fail! Hahah Kidding!
As you fill each tortilla, place it into the pan and then next one butts right up tight to it and so on. These things need to steam all snuggled up together, so don't leave any space between them. Keep this up until the pan is full and you've used up your ingredients. Now pour all the rest of the seasoned tomato sauce over the whole pan and sprinke the rest of your cheese over the top of  everything. Seal the pan tightly with tin foil and bake for about half an hour on 325. Remove the tin foil right before serving. Serve with salsa, sour cream and guacamole. And just out of respect, make your condiments resemble the Flag of Mexico!

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